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213 West Liberty St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Jan Muhleman

What educational, entrepreneurial or business development programs, if any, have you taken advantage of?
We regularly participate in education and industry programs. Our leadership has taken executive education programs at University of Michigan, classes at Washtenaw Community College and have participated in programs at Harvard Business School. Our team members have attended special sessions provided by the International Franchise Association, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the American Banking Association, and others. Our team members have been responsible for developing and presenting educational programs on branding and social media for Ann Arbor SPARK, Ann Arbor Ad Club, IFA, and many other local and national organizations.

Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
One of our first Group 243 clients was Tom Monaghan of Domino's Pizza. He had a prior relationship with one of our founding partners and was looking for someone he could trust to rebrand the company. That initial assignment turned into a 20-year agency relationship during which we helped them grow to $2.5 billion in sales. Our first new client after we became re:group was The Auto Club, AAA's  throughout the Midwest. We were hired to develop an umbrella brand position to unify their disparate offers.

Where did you find your first employee?
At Group 243, a number of our first employees were our former students from OSU. (Yes, the Buckeyes infiltrated enemy territory.) We already knew them and had confidence in their abilities. When we became re:group, pretty much our entire team was rehired by the new company. In fact, many of us have stuck together through multiple company ownerships. Our first new re:group employee was recruited through a more traditional search.

Have you promoted an intern to employee status, and if so how many times have you done it?
Re:group has a long-standing internship program primarily with the University of Michigan. Several of our interns have become permanent employees or were offered positions with our company. A couple of interns we would have liked to retain unfortunately wanted to have a bigger city experience and found jobs in Chicago or New York.

Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
Re:group has been privately funded by our principle shareholder. When starting Group 243, we were initially funded by a personal loan and private investment from friends and founding partners. After we grew and established an income stream, we were able to secure financing against receivables from local financial institutions Citizen's Trust (now PNC) and NBD (now Chase). Our current banking relationship is with Chase.

If you could change one thing about this region, what would it be?
Create a more business friendly economic environment for small and medium sized businesses.

Name an idea, policy or mindset from elsewhere that you would like to see this region adopt?
Recently the Young President’s and World President’s organizations held meetings at TechTown, The University of Michigan Ross School of Business and at Lear Corporation exploring the topics of entrepreneurship and keeping our students in the state. The meetings created the opportunity for successful business leaders to form relationships with educational institutions, young entrepreneurs and students. Members were encouraged to become mentors, add interns to their team and bring real world issues to U-M's MAP program. Creating more of such opportunities for small businesses to learn from successful businesses is something that should be further explored.

What could local leaders do to help attract and retain more entrepreneurial young people to Metro Detroit?
Continue to feature success stories to create positive buzz about the region.

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